Posts tagged ‘fiction’

Maddening Corridors of Intrigues – 40

He had been sitting on the iron railing, encircling the lake. The lake was situated on the outskirts of the city. He had been in waiting there for over two hours now. He was waiting for the motorcade of the home minister Aaham to emerge from the street below.  The winter fog of the early morning had enveloped the road completely making it difficult for any one to see beyond a few yards.   That is why the members of the spotting party deployed just outside the Rajbhavan had been instructed to send a motorcyclist in advance to forewarn him as soon as the caravan carrying the home minister Aaham started its journey from there. He rubbed his palms to keep the winter chill away from his hands. The numbness in his fingers could prove fatal.  What if he failed to pull the trigger first, in that split second the security cover of the VIP will blow him into pieces. He recalled the training given to him by General Durjan when he was assigned the first job of killing the police officer in the Sanctum Sanctorum.  “It is either you or the target that loses the life.  The split second spent on dithering has caused many a sharp shooters to end up their missions by paying up with their lives. Once you have made up your mind to do away with the subject, you must do it with all precision and ruthlessness. Otherwise you must be ready to get your top chopped off instantly as there will not be a second chance for you to pull the trigger. The second shot always belong to the opponent”.

He could see vague specks of light in the distance travelling towards him. The motorcyclist came near him. He had thrown the orange peels on the road and sped away. He was giving him the necessary signal that the caravan was on its way and will be there in next two minutes. Ranjit took position behind the small mile stone on road.  It was an open jeep leading the pack of security cauldron followed by a fire brigade vehicle. He let both the automobiles pass through. He or his companions did nothing to disturb the smooth run of both the motors that were leading the motorcade.  “The home minister Aaham will be occupying the third white ambassador car; the first two cars will be used as a decoy. You must avoid them at any cost”, the informant had clear description of the seating arrangements of the cavalcade of the VIP.

He hid himself behind the thick hedge of wild foliage that had been growing on the side path of the road and pulled one of the bushes over his face as the first high intensity bomb ripped through the floor of the white ambassador car leading the pack.  The car flew to the right side of the road and fell into the ditch. There was a strong smell of human flesh burning into the air.  The occupants of this car would hardly have had an inkling of what had hit them as they were blown into smaller bits of burning balls in no time.

The deafening sound of the explosion deafened Ranjit’s ears for a while. The flash of the fire blinded the drivers of all vehicles of the cavalcade who were following the car that was blown into pieces.  The driver of the car that was there in the middle of the caravan could not apply the brakes in time and went over the rear fender of the car leading in the front that came off the vehicle hit by the bomb.

The driver of the automobile carrying the home minister Aaham avoided the clash with the car ahead of him. He steered his automobile to the left of the road. His grazing tires screeched as they turned at a very high speed missing the iron railing by the scrape of a hair. The driver wanted to take off from the scene of the explosion to save the home minister Aaham. He had also simultaneously shifted the gear into top speed when he saw his very important passenger’s life was in danger.

But Ranjit gave him not a chance to escape.  When the white ambassador car reached near him, Ranjit leapt over the railing and fired continuously on the occupants of the vehicle from a distance of three to four feet.  First volley of bullets hit the driver of the car and the security guard in their faces.  The car soared   through the iron railing on the road and it turned turtle. He fired the next round but the shots  sprayed out of the Kalashnikov  hit the door in the rear and the clinkering sound of bullets striking the iron could be heard all over the place. He had no time to see if any of the bullets fired by him had found their targets amongst the occupants sitting in the seat at the back of the vehicle. He had seen that the Home minister Aaham had ducked underneath the rear wall of the front seat.

But there was no time to wait and check the effects of the hundreds of   bullets that had materialized from his fire emitting gun. Ranjit fled towards the residential sector adjoining the lake road on foot and soon he would have been lost himself into the swallowing up fog.  But it appeared those security men who were leading the home minister Aaham’s caravan in their jeeps were too determined. They had come back after they saw the flashing fires of bullets and rising of the smoke towards the skies in their rearview mirror of their vehicles.

“There he goes”, someone had shouted in the dark. “You must take cover”, he had heard another voice from the same direction. “He may have another bomb”.   A bullet whizzed past Ranjit’s left ear without hitting him. He knew he had been dotted by the hawk’s eyes of the elite commandos who had been especially trained to provide security to the very important politicians of the country.

He was well aware that very soon all these security men will outrun him if he continued running in the open like this. He jumped over the first boundary wall that he came across and ran towards the back yard of the house. “I should find a way out from the other end” Ranjit thought aloud.  To his dismay the back yard of the house ran into a mesh of sharp edged wires that separated the two grounds falling into the middle of two adjoining bungalows. He knew he had been cornered and it was not possible to jump over the wired mesh.

“I wonder if it is the end of the world for me today” he told himself “I have hardly been able to savor the love of my newlywed for a few hours to go away like this.  She does not even know that I am not at home sleeping next to her.  She was in too deep a slumber after intense love making on her first blissfully wedding night”

He heard the human shouts were moving towards him and then a loud shriek of some one having been hit by a gun shot in the front of the house. “Who is it”, an authoritative voice boomed in the courtyard as the overhang lights came on. Ranjit fired towards the tube light shattering it into many small splinters.  The dweller inside the house put off all their lights.

“It was now or never”, he thought and ran towards the front gate spraying a volley of bullets from his Kalashnikov.  The security officer from the home minister Aaham’s entourage on his trail was taken by complete surprise. His still body behind the cover wall of outer boundary had been hit by the spray of bullets form Ranjit’s gun. It flew a few feet into the air and slumped back into the ground. Ranjit saw another figure slouched into the small plants of rose bushes.  One of his   companions had been done away with mercilessly by some of the security men. He did not stop by to look back who it was. It will be a while before some one from the house will find courage enough to come out and realize how many have been killed and by whom He sprinted   at frightening speed   till he had covered the distance of a few lanes taking him away from the house under the siege of the security personnel. He slowed down his pace after he noticed that he had come a long way away form the scene of the shootout.  He showed no hurry as he walked towards the main four lane road leading away from the residential rows of huge compounds. It appeared as if he had never missed his morning sun rise and today also he was out on a morning walk to take pleasure in looking at the sun coming out of the hidden blue skies behind the fogs that emanated skywards from out of the fresh airs of the lake waters.

“It will be a long  while before some one from the house will find courage enough to come out and realize how many have been killed and by whom. By that time I will be back with my beloved”, Ranjit told himself. He found his sweat shirt and the track suit including Nike joggers in the back seat of a car parked by one of the boys on the far end of the road.  He changed into the track suit and did not forget to tie the laces of the Nike joggers.  He told the boy to drop him a few paces ahead of the house on the opposite direction to the one from which he had been running away.

The falling drops of sweat on his brow could tell any one that he has had a long jog. But his ordeal was not over yet.

“Hey you, in the blue track suits”, he heard a voice from behind “what are you doing here on the road at such an early hour”.

It was a police inspector walking towards him. The inspector raised his baton he was carrying in his right hand and beckoned him to stop.

“Oh a running freak’, he pointed towards his track suit and joggers, “but you better be careful schmuck, winter is at its peak and you may catch cold”.

The inspector was observing him very carefully and closely. “Are you not the same guy who got married at the shrine yesterday? How can you leave your newly wed asleep in the bed alone? Do you come here for a morning run? Do you not know the times are bad for even an early morning run? There are prowlers on the road.  You could get killed. There has been an attempt on the life of the home minister Aaham, a few minutes ago. We shall have to haul you up for questioning”, the police inspector shifted his baton to his left hand and took out his revolver from the holster. He pointed it towards Ranjit. “You thank your stars that I am a disciple of the shrine and hence I am not firing at you.  Otherwise I have orders to shoot at any one found running on this road. Come let us get moving fast before any of my seniors pass through here”.

Ranjit behaved as if he was mortally scared to hear the news of attack on the home minister Aaham’s life. He spoke to the cop in a stammering tone, “oh my god! Do you mean sir they had tried to kill that minister who had come to the shrine to bless us on our wedding day? He is a very nice and gentle human being.  I sincerely hope and pray that nothing happened to him. How bad are the times .I did not want to break my routine of daily morning run. But how the hell would a common folk like me know what lies  in store for him on the roads .I thank my stars that I did not strayed too  much away from my home. I must get back home instantly.  I thank you for informing me that you are a member of the shrine. That means we are co brothers. Then we must have a similar bent of mind.  Will you please let me go? I must reach home early”. He folded his hands in a gesture of having been obliged.

“Thanks” Ranjit said. He started running in the direction leading towards his   home on the double.

The inspector fired a bullet shot close to Ranjit’s legs. Ranjit could smell the burning fire from the burnt cloth of his pajamas.  The heat of the fire was very close to his knees.  He by instinct knew that any further move by him to run away from this spot would mean his legs will be definitely broken by another pull on the trigger. He stood still and waited for the police man to come near him.

“If there are others of his fellow officers they should soon join him. Then the odds will be against one to too many. If I have to save my life then I must immediately take control of the situation.  As otherwise the entire struggle of the fight to freedom will come to a naught”.

The police man by now had come too close to his attacking vicinity. He pressed the muzzle of his revolver close to Ranjit’s head. “One more move by you and you will be dead. Just board the vehicle quickly and quietly”, the inspector shoved the gun into his left side lower earlobe. He pushed him towards the police jeep parked on the other side of the road.

“It is now or never “thought Ranjit and went straight for police inspector’s two eyes. He jabbed his fingers into the sockets of those eyes. The inspector shrieked in extreme agony. The revolver in inspector’s hands could not take the pressure of his finger on the trigger; a stray shot from the firearm hit the ground below. Ranjit gave one more chop hand blow on the officers’ neck again and with one strike he had broken his wind pipe. Blood started oozing from his victim’s nose and mouth.  The instant gush of fluid choked his nostrils making it extremely difficult for him to breathe.  The police inspector had fallen on the cold and damp earth below on both his knees. Ranjit snatched the firearm from his hand. He   put two bullets into his forehead creating two gaping holes.

Ranjit raised the revolver close to his lips and blew into the smoke coming out of the barrel. “Thanks for the souvenir but I do not need this”, Ranjit wiped off his fingerprints from the metal and put the revolver back into the holster hung onto the dead body of the police inspector. He kicked the corpse into the ditch dug up by the road building department onto the roadside.  Ranjit knew that soon it will be discovered by his fellow officers, when they would notice the lone vehicle parked on the road. He started his jog towards home blowing a whistle to the tune of latest film song. “The occasion calls for an early morning repeat of the fete performed by me last night along with my newlywed” he smiled to himself.

Ranjit slipped himself quietly into the small entrance to his home.  He picked up the bunch of garden pipes lying in the front of the green lawns and started spraying water on the plants, “the gardener should also be on his way to tend to them”.

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Maddening Corridors of Intrigues 39

The press photographers representing various newspapers were vying with each other to get a complete coverage of the event for their readers. They had been requesting Ranjit Sehgal and his newly wed to pose for photographs so that they could get a wider coverage in the evening issue. Howsoever hard he tried he could not avoid being clicked by almost all of the photojournalists present on such a grand occasion. Ranjit wanted to get away from the venue where his marriage was organized. He was afraid of not only his past activities but he was also anxious that his relationship with the great priest Rajamantran will be give him an unwanted  exposure in the eyes of the police and other investigating agencies. He was apprehensive that the sleuths of the investigation bureau will begin smelling through their many noses around. His basic strength so far has been to remain as unassuming as possible and here too he wanted to perform the role of a commoner so that his freedom to movement was not hampered. He was never in favor of solemnizing his marriage in the public eye. It was great Priest’s habitual practice to rather give a widest possible publicity to all his activities in order to attract not only the common village folks but also the politicians and the bureaucrats of all kinds. He considered them as prize trophies to be displayed on all occasions. It was General Durjan who explained to him, “You must not behave like a touch me not in front of the press and the politicians. They are all here every year.  These functions have been organized during this part of the year for past many centuries. There are no ways that any one tying the matrimonial knot under the auspices of the shrine can be associated with the political aspects of the shrine. The act of getting the young couples married is a mere social and philanthropic act of the great priest.  However if you act like as if you are trying to hide something that may give the press as well as the police a reason to look for meanings where there none exists so far. In case you are worried about your family coming forward to claim their relationship with you and giving out your real identity to your bride rest assured they have already donated you to the cause of the shrine. Your parents have accordingly been informed of your decision to spare them the pain and humiliation of falling into the hands of investigating agencies; should you get caught any time in life. In the records of their life no son ever existed by your name. They will simply disown you in the event of any one asking them about their first born son. You must be and remain the persona you have created for yourself i.e. Mr. Ranjit Sehgal from England whose dear mother breathed her last waiting for her wayward son to return home along with his newly wed bride”.

“But I always thought there was glory and fame attached to people who have led their nation to the path of victory. Why would then my original parents be ashamed of their association with me. In fact I am afraid they will be too keen to come forward and claim all kinds of relation with any one who serves the seer and his mission. And that is what I am afraid and apprehensive of; as I do not want the fact known to the world that a father who works for the police establishment has a progeny who have crossed line to a point of no return, that he is a declared ultra fighting against the same establishment”.

“These are simply your misgivings. You better get rid of such thoughts at the earliest and start accepting the fact that you and only you will be the next in line to the legacy of the great Priest. He does not have any one in his lineage to carry on the work started by him. The sweet nectar of fame, power, political heritage and the wealth of large fortune awaits you in the very four walls of sanctum sanctorum. It is the time to rejoice and celebrate. I will see  that  you and your family are driven down to your new home immediately but do not forget to seek blessings of pontiff before you leave for your honeymoon”, General Durjan winked at him mischievously.

Ranjit saw his mother in law walking towards them; she was accompanied by her husband and a few other friends, “young man in case we do not have some other ceremonies to attend   to we can go home. You and your wife will also need rest as you must have been exhausted after a long day. You can see Koena is not able to walk even; she has been on fast for the entire day and insists she will have some thing to eat only after saying her prayers at her new home. Since the great pontiff is busy with his other political guests. It is time to make our move; if we walk out quietly no one will even notice our departure”.

Ranjit felt General’s hand on his shoulder, he was pointing towards pontiff  coming out of his chambers, stooping low and brows held high as if he was in great rage but smiled returned on his celestial face as soon as he saw Ranjit’s “you are still around my children,  your  family members are waiting  anxiously to take you home . Go my child go, the world of heavenly pleasures welcome you because every thing else in this world is temporary except the fact of procreation. The family life must be started by you on the auspicious note. May you and your beautiful wife produce as many soldiers for saving the honor of our nation? Go and lead a blissful married life but do not forget you also have a duty towards the religion and the community which must be honored when the time demands”, the pontiff moved on towards other couples to bless them.

Ranjit’s mother in law bent low, she folded her both hands and requested the pontiff, “I shall be too thankful to your lordship for giving us the honor of retrieving the trust of the community. Ever since my wedding I used to worry whether my children will ever be accepted back by the members or will it is that they too like me have to be married outside our marshal community. I am willing to work for the shrine at any time. Please do let us know if I or my progeny could be of some service to the faith”.

Ranjit felt quite amused, he knew the old lady’s quest for money will lead her too ultimately to become a part of the movement led by the shrine. . There has often been discussion for forming a women’s wing that could bring about the revolution amongst the fairer sex. He however wondered if his father in law was aware of the seeds that were being planted in his wife’s mind. She was virtually falling into the same trap of money and political power that had lured Ranjit into it.

He opened the door to the rear seat to the plush luxury car, presented to him by the shrine on his wedding day. The gift wrap and the ribbons from front fender to the bumpers at back were still intact; he asked Koena to cut ribbons barring entry to the rear seat and slid himself next to her after she had settled down on the extreme left corner. He prevented his mother in law to get inside the car and requested her to join them in the vehicle that was following them. He did not want any one else to sit near to his bride, “no one except me will sit next to her. All of you can come in the other cars”, he had to tell his brother in law and father in law. Though Munna insisted for a while to sit near to his sister but was told in hushed tones by Koena to listen to what he was being told. She nudged Ranjit on his rib cage when he sat next to her “you are   being over possessive. I will not say that I do not like it; I am being flattered”. “Yes I am being jealous of the beauty, a beauty that no other woman possesses. You look like a fairy to me and I do not want any other human being near you except me”:  Koena kind of lost her consciousness for a minute when he spoke these words passionately into her ears. The words were spoken so softly that the driver in the front could not hear any thing; otherwise also he too was lost in looking at the out of this world beauty of celestial nature. Ranjit jokingly asked him to turn the rear view mirror to the other side “you can stare at your own bride when you reach your home. This one strictly belongs to me”.  Koena hid her face behind her henna colored hands in sheer embarrassment. Ranjit kissed her hands and realized he was getting excited. The sweet smell of her youth mixed with the fragrance of the perfume she was wearing gave him the feeling of possessiveness he had never felt before. His heart and mind started to pound and the throb of hardness between his loins reminded him, “He will finally have her all to himself tonight and for the rest of their lives”.  The thought started massaging his ego as well. There will be  no fear of any Arabian sheikh or the cigar smoking boss playing at back of his mind when he finally gets down to business of celebrating union of his manhood with the woman of his dreams. He felt stronger today, stronger than any other male of the species.  He wondered how the journey of life progresses; from a vagabond to drug courier to a gun carrier, to a mercenary, to the savior of the nation; the supersonic fast progression was beyond his comprehension.

Last words spoken by General were still echoed in his ears, “you are the natural heir to the throne. He is preparing you to take on should any thing happen to him”. He could visualize a sea of humanity lying prostrate at his feet, till he was woken up by the sound of music being played out side his own house. His friends from shrine had decorated his house to accord a grand welcome to him and his lovely bride. He extended his hand to help her alight from car. She was almost as tall as him, he noticed for the first time, as she took her soft steps into her new world.

Koena saw bevy of flowers arranged into bedroom to which she was led by the boys dancing to the tunes of love lyrics played by the orchestra downstairs. She noticed the soft psychedelic lights playing in the room and sweet smell of perfume pervading all over the place, she asked her mother, “are you enacting the part of my groom’s mother as well tonight by arranging my marital bed and the décor?” “Not me, these are possibly his friends from the shrine. The great priest Rajamantran must have sent them to give a memorable night to his favored nephew. Did you see the luxury car that brought you here? How lucky you are my dear! Let no evil eye be cast on you my child. I want both of you to remain happy and content forever in life”.

“I know mom I shall never forget the stance you took against dad. But his apprehensions were also not uncalled for; we have been reading about the great priest Rajamantran and his boys in the newspaper often. He has virtually become a threat to the communal harmony and peace in the country. I sincerely hope Ranjit has nothing to do with the political heritage of his uncle”.

“These are simply your misgivings dear, how can a man handling a multi millionaire worth of business afford to even indulge in such pastime. In any case both of you will be moving out of this country soon and then god willing we will also join you there”.  Koena crossed her fingers but she still had a fear gnawing at her heart, “what if she had taken a wrong decision, what if her love could be blind thus preventing her to see the actuality? She jerked her head “let me not think of any negatives. Ranjit can never have betrayed me, but if it so happens,” she decided, “that will be the end of their relationship”.

“Do you intend staying here in the same room overnight mother in law”, Ranjit amusingly winked at her “in that case I better go back to the shrine to please gods so that they could help me possess my bride from her mother even after I have been legally wedded to her”. Koena knew these words were said in pure innocence and her husband meant no offence to her mother, still in order to bring down the impact of any unintentional insult if at all felt by her mother she took cudgels against him, “sir you dare not touch me till the final permission is sought by you by promising my mother that you will never ever be the cause of any tears in her daughter’s eyes”. Ranjit pinched at his throat “I swear by all my love for your daughter madam, you will never find me ever the reason for any misfortune or misbehavior to your beloved child. But I can also assure you I will give her so much love tonight, if only you will leave us alone for the night”.

“This man is all in a mood to make it special for his wife tonight. He does not recognize any relationship or friends.  Let us leave him alone with his bride madam”, one of the boys who had brought Koena into the room led her mother away to the other portion of the house.

Ranjit held his wife back by the hand as she got up from the bed to make some space for him, “come my dear you do not have to accompany your mother to the door.  I am sure my boys will take care of all her necessities. We have lot of things to discuss tonight”, he pulled her close towards him and looked meaningfully into her eyes. She could not avoid the intoxicating stare and was lost into the love filled depth of his eyes. “Will you please permit me to close the door”, she wanted to tell him but was stopped from speaking any words. He put his hot lips onto her soft petals, pulled her towards him with his right hand and bolted the door with the left hand. He lifted her off the ground and took her to the bed with their lips sealed till she found it difficult to   breathe and virtually forced him to take his lips away by pinching his nostrils by her two fingers. “Easy be the Youngman I am your law fully wedded wife now.  No one is going to take me away from you”.

Maddening Corridors of Intrigues -37

The great priest Rajamantran and General Durjan watched the press conference as it was being addressed by the big man Aaham on television. He was exhibiting to the press reporters the letter signed by the state governor.

 “The disciplined and loyal officer of the Indian army could no longer remain mute spectator to the deteriorating law and order situation in the most progressive state of our country”, he writes, “It has been a great honor to serve this country as a member of the armed forces and as a result of my dedication to the nation you appointed me a guardian of the state.  But as a humble representative of the President of the country I find it difficult to serve any longer should the ministry headed by Pratap continue to rule. They have not been able to contain the wide spread terror and violence.  The thugs and the terrorists have made their home every where in the state. The common man is always living under the fear of death .There has been a complete failure of the state administrative and police machinery. Under such circumstances I have no other alternative but to recommend the dissolution of the assembly and dismissal of the existing ministry. I also recommend the imposition of the president’s rule in the state, till the fresh elections are held”. He saw the press scribes furiously jotting down every single word spoken by the home minister Aaham.

He continued “fourth estate had expressed apprehensions on the eve of last elections, that our party might rig the elections; which was proved to the contrary. We have always been a supporter of good democratic traditions. You saw it for yourself the election was held in a very conducive and peaceful atmosphere. Again; there were misgivings that we may not hand over the power to the people’s party.  We withdrew ourselves gracefully and bowed to the decision of the electorate. We decided to provide a responsible opposition, an alter ego of the common man of this country.  But it is the safety and security of the life and property of the common folks that has been put to threat by the ministry headed by our friend Pratap.   The state administration’s failure to ensure the free and secure life to the common man in the event of recent spate of killings has forced, even an ardent patriot like Colonel Bangru to ask for the dissolution of the state assembly”.

 One of the scribes raised his hands to draw the attention of the home minister Aaham.  Colonel Bangru who was sitting on the head chair along with the speaker of the day  motioned the journalist to remain silent, “the press of our democratic country has always been quite conscious of its duty towards the society and we shall answer all your doubts and queries. We shall also request you to educate the people and the electorate of the state as to why we have been virtually cornered to take such an extreme step”, the home minister Aaham carried on. “I am personally here to ensure the reassignment of peace in the state through fresh polling.  The schedule for which will be made public soon after consultation with the election commission”.

The press correspondent got up from his seat and raised his hand again “if you will permit me sir!”

The home minister Aaham covered the mike he was holding with his hand. He spoke a few words on the side to Colonel Bangru and came back to the member of the press, “you can ask me any thing friend”.

“Is it not true sir that you are here to bless the weddings of some of the extremists and terrorists supported by the shrine? Does that mean the central government has had a truce with the activists of the shrine? It is alleged that some of these extremists are behind the spread of current violence in the state”.

 “Of course I am here to attend the social cause supported by the sage Rajamantran. He has every year married off couples from poor families. Young ones from the poor and downtrodden families gather every year on a particular day to enter marital bliss. All such marriages are organized under his blessings. In fact we must reserve all praise for such a great social act performed by the shrine.  It will be wrong on our part to dub a pious and a religious man as an extremist. He had simply shown his anguish at the failing of the state machinery in protecting minorities’ interests. We shall soon find out the hands behind killings. But I do not agree that our priest Rajamantran has any thing to do with this”.

 The great priest Rajamantran who had been watching all this on television was not too amused by the announcement for new election schedule made by the home minister Aaham.   The home minister Aaham knew the fact very well that their mutual understanding did not include another farcical election called upon them by the usurpers of authority. The home minister Aaham and his cohort of a governor had dismissed an authority that had been given to the common man by the very constitution which they were objecting to. Now that he has been able to get rid of his rival Pratap and his ministry; he is talking of going to polls again. The great priest Rajamantran felt used by the home minister Aaham. He looked at facial expressions of General Durjan. He could see the pain and anguish being reflected on his face. He thought, “This is a complete turn around by the home minister Aaham. The politician will always remain a scoundrel.  This one proved that he was no exception. He was completely ignoring the aspirations of the nation to come into a glorious limelight that it once enjoyed. The great shrine’s contribution and the sacrifices of some of his boys will not be allowed to go waste at the ambitious alter of merely winning or losing of the election by the wily plotter”.

 As if General Durjan could read the mind of his mentor, “We have not created the army of dedicated young men and women to be discarded by the rascal of a schemer politician in such an unceremonial fashion. We have given the promises of a glorified self rule to the trusting masses. What do we explain to them? The new election agenda proposed by this traitor will spell out our moving out of the sanctum sanctorum .we will once again be relegated to the ignominious living through the begging bowls once again. This man has been corrupted by the taste of the uninterrupted political power for so many years. That is what it seems to me”.

“If you permit me sir; we can show him the mighty power of the creed. We will not allow his plan of fresh elections to be implemented. The perpetuators of faith will snatch the power from the denizens of politics. We will make the faith stronger than the dreams these brokers of a few seats in the corridors of power are able to sell. We have to tell this man that a point of no return means going ahead with our plans even if a few heads fall on the way”.

The great priest Rajamantran contemplated for a while and spoke, “Yes but I do not want to eliminate him at this stage. His presence in the echelons of ruling corridors will be useful when it comes to controlling the different factions of our own community.  I have always believed that the flag pole should not be removed till the final race is won. We will use him as a flag pole to remind us of the miles to be covered by us”. “You should ask Hassan to send four of the boys to deal with him and no killing please”.

Maddening Corridors of Intrigues -36

He looked at Koena who was leading him in the front. They had been walking around the holy fire for the last round of marriage circles.  The other couples too had completed their seven rounds along with them on their respective holy fire pots set up for each couple who was getting married on that day, separately. The great priest Rajamantran was explaining to them the meaning of the husbands leading their wives into the matrimonial bliss. “You will take care of your wife through all walks of life. Even when she is not well you will look after her. It will be your pious duty to provide for her and her children etc”. He will ask them to stop in between the circles and explain to them the meaning of each round taken till they completed the seventh round. “We declare all of you husband and wife respectively. All of the newly married couples should seek the blessings of your elders”.

The great priest Rajamantran personally introduced all the couples to the gentry of the highly placed people of the society of the town present on the stage. Ranjit and Koena were being led to the home minister Aaham when a commotion was noticed outside the marriage pandal.  The guards deployed by the shrine were preventing two men from entering the marriage pandal, “you may be the officers from any big department. We will not permit you to enter here. Our great priest will be free in a couple of hours.   Then only we will permit you to come inside the pandal. Or otherwise you can go and meet the home minister Aaham at the state guest house. We have orders from our great Priest that no one other than the specific invitees will be permitted to enter the marriage venue”.

The home minister Aaham beckoned his secretary to go and enquire into the matter. The secretary listened to the visitors and came rushing to the home minister Aaham and whispered a few words into the ears of the politician.  Ranjit and his newly wed were standing next to the minister. They  overheard the following remarks, “warrants being issued, murder of bus passengers and the killing of the police deputy chief”.  He covered his face with the flower mask worn by the bridegroom, it had become apparent they were talking of the blood chilling murder of Tanwar committed by him, but he was still not sure they were actually looking for him; unless someone from the shrine has sung a song to the police.  It was impossible to link him to the crime. Then someone mentioned the name Parma, cops were looking for Parma and they have information he should have come to wedding ; hence the plain clothes men from the investigation cell had discretely come to the function to inform home minister Aaham about the search warrants issued by the local  police after they had obtained permission of the chief minister. They wanted to come inside and without disturbing the wedding function wanted to give advance intimation to the Home minister Aaham who otherwise would be embarrassed if the fugitive was found and apprehended here in his presence.

” Has your chief minister gone out of his mind? Does he think that we shall be attending a function where criminals abound? This is a place of God. Our dear children are being married off by the blessings of the great priest Rajamantran of our community. We do not ascribe to the view that the person by the name you suggested can be even allowed to come any where near to the holy men. Go back and tell your bosses that I have ordered them to stop all the nonsense of this search etc at once. In case they do not, we shall see to it that the government that has signed such a non sensical orders should fall.  Your chief minister then my dear friend will have to give lots of explanation to the new administration”.

“Sir we are simply obeying orders that have been issued from the top and in no case we shall be undertaking any step that could be against the ethics of decency. We have worked under you when you were at the helm of the affairs of the state.  In fact I was directly attached to the security wing at your residence; so how do you expect my lord that I will allow any of the warrants to be operated against any one even distantly associated with you”.  The home minister Aaham closely looked at the balding man whose smile appeared familiar and then he placed him, “I see you are Ralla Ram who used to accompany me to the morning walks.  Thank god it is you.  I am sure you will not permit your subordinates to create nuisance here”.

“No question of creating any unpleasantness here sir.  We will rather prefer that you come back to the state.  This new government is of no use. They are neither allowing us to do our duty, nor do they allow the antisocial elements to do their work. How do you expect we all can survive? I am sure one day we all will perish if we do not get from the law breakers what is rightfully due to us”. The home minister Aaham and the great Priest; laughed out aloud on the joke thrown by the petty police officer. He ordered two chairs to be placed for the investigators and told his men meaning fully to look after them well.

Ranjit heaved a sigh of relief once he heard the name of another person being mentioned but it had become apparent the local police was still investigating into the murder case that happened inside the shrine. Unless the current administration changes and the forces closer to the sage come to the thrown; he will always have a Damocles’ sword hanging on his head.  He will not be able to function the way the great priest Rajamantran wanted him to. He was feeling scared.  He felt that the law will some day catch on with him.

A large number of people who had come to attend the mass marriage function were getting restless. The sage addressed them in his most endearing tone “it is nothing my children. It is only a small disturbance from the local administration. We have already taken care of the same. The food for every one is being served at the community kitchen. It is my earnest desire we all sit together and partake what the lord has kind fully sent for us along with his heavenly bliss”. He   personally went around to the newly weds and led them towards the inner courtyard of the temple shrine.

Koena who had been worried about her father’s state of mind wished to reassure her self that Ranjit is not involved in any of such nefarious activities the shrine was suspect fully  being associated with.

“I sincerely hope you will keep your self away from the activities of the sage and his men”.

“Believe me dear I have my personal business to attend to which has been started recently by me. Once we are finished with our job of getting married, we may migrate abroad as the business of hardware exports and imports can be handled from there too”, he deliberately spoke in the louder tone to make sure her father had overheard whatever they were discussing. He went and sat next to his mother in law. He beckoned Koena also to do the same. He spoke to the family as one of their family member “I think the time has come to put a morsel and two in mouth and believe me I am absolutely famished. I can eat plenty of food. This exercise of going round the fire for such a long rounds, really tires you out”.

“Yes dear but it is only the beginning.  You will have to do this running around all through your life since you are a married man now. This wife of yours used to make me dance to her tunes all my life. We are sure now she will have you responding to her finger’s movements”, Munna spoke in a very serious tone.  Every one burst out laughing. Ranjit knew he had to make extra effort to remove any doubt lurking in the family’s mind about his association with the great priest Rajamantran and his men.  He did not want his marital life to start on a sore note “all of us shall be hence forth living all together in my house. I want you dear dad to leave your job to help me in my business and guide us with your wisdom”.

“But that is impossible I have never handled any kind of commercial business in my life. It is however reassuring to note that you are serious about your business. I pray that you will remain away from the dirty politics of your uncle. It is not meant for simpletons like us. We are better off in our small little world of family pleasures”,   this was the first advice given to him by his bride’s father.

The great priest Rajamantran who had been controlling himself during the public function; flew off his handle once he found the home minister Aaham alone with him, and in his uncontrolled rage gave a warning note to the big man, “if the state government does not stop prying into the affairs of shrine, lots of skeletons will fly out of different cupboards.  Your name could also be dragged into whatever has been happening into the public life. I will tell you either you dismiss this chief minister or we know how to take care of the enemies of the shrine. You must speak to the governor of the state here in our presence and like you had promised; carry out the agreement of imposing the central rule on this state. The agreement of handing over the powers to one of our nominees must be honored by you. We on our part have created situation where the common man today is scared and terrorized of stepping out of his abode without a threat to his life and liberty. If you still believe we have not done enough; the violence in common man’s life can be escalated to unprecedented levels. But we are afraid then our boys will have reached a point of no return.  The state will have to pay a very high price to yours and our ambitions”. The great priest Rajamantran lifted the telephone receiver and handed it over to the home minister Aaham, “please you may dial the telephone number of the governor’s house. You may tell him that the administrative powers of the state ministry must be withdrawn immediately.  You will tell the governor to issue orders forthwith, lest the state police apprehend any of our men”.

“I will have to consult the prime minister and it is not desirable from the public propriety point of view that such a step is initiated at the times when I am enjoying your hospitality. The press could kill my political career.  In any case it is time to declare fresh elections to the state assembly.  I will ask the prime minister to hasten up the process of dismissing the state assembly”, the home minister Aaham wanted to gain some time to talk to his mentors.  Besides he did not like the manner in which the sage was ordering him to do things. He wished he could tell this preacher of no importance to behave himself. “Howsoever big and mighty this sage might have become he has been the creation of my diabolical mind and the creation can seldom be bigger than the creator”.

“You can not declare election to the state assembly even if you dismiss the incumbent ministry. General Durjan public does not want to vote under the existing franchise and the constitution. We have all along been asking for an independent state.  I strongly believe you will support us the way we have been doing all kinds of favor for you and your party. We must have a separate identity as an independent country. Since you have been the foremost propagator of an agitation against the existing government; we sincerely will provide you with the highest office in our independent country. You can be the president of a new nation, a nation which will be based on the purity of caste, creed and community, where you and I will get enough authority to promote our own culture, and heritage”, the great priest Rajamantran thundered in front of the home minister Aaham.

“I do understand your concern for the nation and the religion but believe me we had never thought of severing you and your people from the main stream.  It has never been the ideology to separate your community from the national reckoning. You have always been the front runners in this country and you will remain so for centuries to come. My party and the high command would hate to be associated with any separatist demand that creates a gulf between the existing constitutional system and its provisions of accommodating different flavors of minorities in this vast country. You have always been given a fair deal by the successive governments that have been at the helm of affairs in the central government. May be it is the state units who have acted discriminatingly whenever they have had a mandate for the party other than ours .This time too the people of this state made a blunder of voting for a party that had its roots in two different ideologies. This marriage of political convenience could prove very dangerous for such a large democracy in the world.  The political parties of different ideologies had   come together for the sake of defeating the oldest representatives of the people. We are the born aristocrats and rulers of this country. We have always supported a strong opposition given to us by the people so that our successive governments over the years are never mistaken for one party rule by the supporters of democratic traditions. The opposition has always been our guiding torch for devising the pro people schemes. Now that we have been virtually forced to move to the left, the opposition will cease to exist. That is why we want to give one more chance to    people of the state to use their franchise again.  We will let them help the opposition sit in their proper seats in the state assembly.   I must say that your boys have done their job fairly well but it is time they went back to the shrine. It is high time they  concentrated on the study of theology and religious sermons. Your services rendered will be well rewarded.  The police cases pending against you and your boys will be taken care of once we regain control of the state after removing our arch rivals, which will be done immediately. I shall be personally meeting the prime minister and sending the communiqué to the governor to recommend the end to the state assembly on the grounds of deteriorating law and order in the state”.

“Do you expect the enemy to wait till the fall of the ministry? I am surprised to see the naivety being shown by you. My boys are getting desperate ever since two of their companions have been picked up by the chief of the state   police and his henchmen. The public frenzy can not be built time and again to support any move that creates havoc with their daily living. There may not be enough public support should the police come up with the charges against my men. Why they may even nab me for engineering a murder of the police officer; though it may not hold in the court of law.  But I will hate to be hauled up and put under any kind of forced captivity. You and your party may not come to our rescue should that happen,” the seer was visibly upset and apprehensive.

The home minister Aaham hated the day he had gone to the small time preacher for help; it was getting out of his hands now. He knew that unless he takes control of the situation in the state immediately he may regret it all his life later.

“You have a complete control over the Sanctro sanctorum. None dare touch you here so long as we do not permit any one to enter.  Believe you me the common folks will protect you at any cost as long as you maintain the facade of being their religious savior and protector of their ethnic identity. We are not asking you to play down the role so devised by the circumstances. In fact this garb of religiosity will fetch us the record numbers of votes in the ensuing elections. We will offer you the seats in the constituencies falling within the jurisdictions of your shrine. That will enable you to maintain your grip on the masses of your flocks. You have a complete control over the finance of the Sanctro sanctorum. We will ensure you win hands down in the next managing committee’s election. Let the new elections be completed without any kind of disturbances.  You will hold your boys till the final day of the mandate. The boys will move back to the shrine in case we win.  Otherwise we will let leash the arsenal you have been secretly getting into the country. I hope by now you must have fortified your self against even the mightiest attack”.

The religious preacher, the spokesperson for the souls of his parishioners, the king’s soul keeper had very amusingly been listening to the proposal of the politician par excellence.   He was amazed that this person has been playing dirty politics not only with the state subjects but also with the likes of the pontiff himself. But he said to himself, “this is not the right time to react and antagonize this python in the garb of a   chameleon.  We will have to toe the line drawn by him, till we get the current state government removed from the position of power. As soon as we are able to achieve this we will strike back against this so called big man and his manipulating godfathers in the central government”.

The sage put on his most endearing smile and in sugar coated words asked the home minister Aaham from the central government “sir I do understand your concern in getting back the powers to the state assembly and as guided by you we have created enough havoc already for the electorate.  The common man has been cursing the state chief minister and his protégés for their failure to control the every day macabre incidents. They will be very happy in case you are able to do away with this state administration. Accordingly I have been requesting that this must be done when you are on a visit to the state. You have assessed the failure of the state machinery to prevent attacks on poor public hence on the recommendations of the state governor please have the assembly dissolved. Thus you will be   paving way for fresh elections”.  The great priest Rajamantran continued in his honey dipped words “I am sure the prime minister will understand that it is required to give a sense of confidence back to the voter. Nothing can be more important for any political party than to regain its trust, faith and   face with the electorate. Should you want me to speak to the common public on the dismissal of their elected representatives I shall be too happy to do so. Just remember we were partners in turmoil’s and will remain so even in reconstruction and rebuilding exercise too”.

The home minister Aaham who had been on the look out to rebuild the burnt bridges with the state subjects could see a silver lining in the clouds that had appeared on the political horizon of the state, “you should understand that in this entire political game plan we may have to at times condemn the activities under taken by your shrine.  Will you be prepared to face that kind of flack and take it in the right spirits? Of course we will also find a route to the main stream for all your boys by offering them the prized positions in the party, government and public life. The hype their surrender will create will add a new chapter to the political maneuverings managed by me. Let me speak to the governor and arrange a fax on the deteriorated administrative situation, to the prime minister. I will immediately thereafter speak to him for getting the necessary presidential orders signed. Who knows I may give you an invaluable gift before I leave this state. You and your buddies will always be thankful to me for getting them into such a prominence though”.

The home minister Aaham undertook the journey to the governor’s house immediately thereafter. The oncoming darkness of the times when both ends of day meet i.e. when the sun has just set in and the stars and the moon have still not found their way high enough in sky to provide a little light to the weary traveler was making it difficult for the home minister Aaham’s driver to find his way through “you can slow down a bit, I know with growing age it is difficult to see in the darkness of the ensuing dusk. The headlights of the oncoming vehicles simply throw flash of their head lights in your eyes. These flashes are virtually blinding you”, he told his driver.

“The high speed at this age is bad for health in any way. I wish I could say the same about your public life. You should also slow down a minute and pause to redirect your way through. Let the things mature and may be then you can find better grip of the situation”, the driver who had seen his master go through ups and downs of political life for past thirty years, and had been with him through all kinds of conditions could afford to speak so.

“Oh shut up you are still a novice to the world of royal intrigues. What do you know how kingdoms are won? Your only job is to steer the car through traffic snarls. hence pay full attention to your job only. I have seen of late you have been poking your nose around too much”, the politician got irritated on the advice rendered by his chauffer, “when I need your advice I will ask for it.  Do not just sit morose on the wheel. Pick up some speed too”, the driver knew such minor clashes between him and his master were quite frequent during the day.  He just laughed it out and shrugged his shoulders as if he was saying “what is it to me”.

The secretary to the governor of the state was waiting for him in the front security office. The official ran up to car of the important visitor. He opened the front door, hopped into seat next to the driver and directed the chauffer to drive down for the meeting at square room. The square room was a small hall whose four walls ran parallel to each other. It had been named so by one of the last British residents and ever since the name stuck on to the room.

The home minister Aaham noticed the military discipline visible in the governor house managed by the state administration. It has so been because most of the occupants who lived here have come to this position after they retire from the active service of the armed forces or even the civil services. The current incumbent Colonel Bangru belonged to the supply corps of the armed forces where he had helped many of his politician friends dig gold through supply contracts to the armed forces. One such tender in which the home minister Aaham’s relatives had shown interest brought him closer to the politicians. Aaham   have always preferred non-active politicians to be placed on the gubernatorial positions. He always felt that the non partisan approach of the representative could not be maintained. Besides the politicians will willy-nilly ask for certain favors off the civil and military officials which definitely had to be paid back in terms of such prized positions to them when they retired. Such carrots were necessary to be dangled in front of the adamant and “stick to the file policy” civil and military servants. The British who ruled this country for a long time were quite wise in devising such plum postings in almost all the colonies they ruled over. The availability of such plum positions after retirement ensured a sense of camaraderie and brotherhood prevailed amongst the officers posted within the colonized countries.

Aaham was happy to see that “the governor had the necessary courtesy to meet him at the entrance to the square room.  Otherwise some of the latest lots appointed to these posts were always behaving in their own peculiar and idiosyncratic ways. They carried with them the burdens of their earlier lifestyles. They still were loaded with disdain for public representatives even though they knew the term of governorship depended on the politicians”. He remembered the constitutional crisis they had to face in one of the large lingual state where the governor simply refused to tender the resignation demanded by the central government. Eventually the home ministry had to dig out the pending cases of criminal corruption against the bureaucrat turned governor to force him to step down. Thereafter the prime minister had taken charge of all confidential dossiers of such appointments. Colonel Bangru the man waiting for him, spread both his arms for the home minister Aaham for a warm and friendly hug. He has been anticipating his visit ever since he came to know that the big man has come to attend the marriage fair organized by the great Priest, “it is good to see you back in your home state after such a long time Mr. Home minister. I am sure your visit will bring some sanity back to the life of common man otherwise the entire state has been turned into a slaughter house by the extremists”.

The home minister Aaham extricated himself from the bear hug. He selected a prominent seat on the sofa laid in the square room from where he could have a commanding position in the conclave with this ex- military officer and parked himself therein. He mentioned the governor to sit too, “Yes but as administrative and constitutional head of the state it is equinamally your responsibility to keep the central government informed of the law and order situation in your state. We have to yet receive a formal report from your end. Surely you can not be the silent spectator to the inefficient and ineffective state administration. The prime minister has been quite upset on the recent spate of killings in the state. You can not have one community being subjected to all kind of annihilation by the criminals running their murderous gangs. The prime minister has asked me to convey a note of serious concern. The state administration, who has been fiddling like Nero when Rome burnt, has lost all moral grounds to remain in power. We will like to have your recommendation for dismissing chief minister Pratap’s ministry and dissolve the state assembly. This state must have a fresh election to find another legitimate ruler. I am sure you will not mind mounting the horse of administration and get into active life once again”.

“But Pratap’s ministry has been elected a short while ago only. He needs sufficient time to prove himself to the common publics who have elected him. Whatever violence and reaction we get is a spillover from the poll setbacks to selfish factions of the religious body. I am sure this will ultimately die a natural death. Soon we will have peace once again”. Colonel Bangru’s statement angered him but the home minister Aaham kept his cool, “I did not know you are still such a novice in the art of politics. Can you not see that if that happens and this ministry runs its full term , people of the state will by then get used to be ruled by the likes of Pratap who bring with them the reconciliatory policy of having trucks with the fundamentalists. There exists in this country an unwritten code of keeping fundamentalists out of power. However by the coming together of two different religious thoughts they will form a strong awakening amongst the masses that the administration can survive on two different legs too. That might spell a doomed future for a secular party of our standing. You must understand it is dangerous to have that kind of rising amongst the masses.  Hence the government must go”.

“I beg your pardon sir but I do not subscribe to the views expressed by you. On the contrary these fundamentalists have always been closer to your regime. There have been instances when their powers were enhanced by you which should have been instead curtailed. The shrine that is purported to be behind all the violent activities has not come up all of a sudden.  The successive governments much prior to the current administration have always stood behind these religious exploiters of mass mentality. Once you pull back your support to these leaches and suckers of the society’s blood they will automatically stop acting like parasites of common good. I do not have the moral courage to ask Pratap to step down.  His mass support base will catapult the state into a riot of no return. At least at this fag end of my carrier I do not want to carry the burden of having put the state on fire”, Colonel Bangru did not know how he was able to utter the words just spoken by him. He had no intentions to spoil his relations with such a big man yet he could not help himself.

“Mr. Governor I have all respects for the moral pangs you are suffering from. But what about my conscious, it too is burdened with many moral thoughts; for example your daughter’s industrial empire which has come up on the funds siphoned off from the state exchequer, your sons’ visits to foreign countries when you were heading the state public commission to stash the illegal funds collected by you by doling out the appointment to state executive positions.  It is difficult for me to contain within my pure conscience all these moral pricks.  Plus you also must remember the court marshal held in abeyance when you were a serving soldier. All of your misdoings hang heavy on my mind and heart too. I think you will not like me to unburden myself by spilling out every thing to the press and public. The impeachment could rather be expensive for your entire family. You could all be doomed to stay behind bars for many years. I suggest you weigh the outcome as against the signing of a simple law and order report”, the home minister Aaham knew he had hit the right cord with the governor.

He called the secretary to the governor on the intercom, (each official of the state was known to the politician by first name) “Ramkishore your boss has some thing stuck up in his throat.  He may not be in a position to dictate the correct vocabulary. Since I am not very familiar with the English language I will tell you in short to address a letter to the President of the country asking for the dismissal of the present state government. I do not have to spell the grounds of dismissal to you.  I am sure you are literate enough to use your discretion”.

He thrust the letter under the governor’s nose for his signatures “do not raise your blood pressure.  We will not prefer losing a friend of your stature. However you could instead ask either your son or daughter to apply for an election ticket to the forth coming state assembly.  We will reserve one seat for one of your family members”.

“Mind you sir! You have forced me to sign a letter which will prove very expensive to the nation. It is not the dismissal of Pratap’s ministry.  It is possibly the death knell for the century old communal harmony and the brotherhood of different minority groups living in this country. One day the great priest Rajamantran will bite the hand that has fed him the poisonous milk”, Colonel Bangru’s emotional outburst was dismissed with a shrug of both the shoulders by the home minister Aaham. “You will have to accompany me to the press meet”.

Maddening Corridors of Intrigues 33

Mr. Kumar did not want to unload the burden he carried on the serene atmosphere of his home. But at the same time he could ill afford to forget the threat hanging on the neck of his family. It was a choice between the fire and the frying pan. He dare not ignore the dictate of the shrine.

“Shall he go to the law”? “Will it help?’ he recalled the drama that took place outside the shrine on the holy day. The great priest Rajamantran is a law unto his own self. The law of the land had crumbled in front of the so called religious center and its occupant. He witnessed it on television.  Does his daughter know the boy she has befriended belongs to the same shrine? He was sure the innocent girl had been duped by the cunning impostor. At the next instant another thought came to his mind, “what if he is genuine? He is still a student. He could only be distantly related to the pontiff. Only time itself could resolve the riddle they all have got into.

He found his wife quite worried about him when he reached home.

“Where have you been dear?  We have been waiting for you on evening tea”?

She looked at his ashen face and swollen eyes. She showed her concern.

“What’s the matter dear? You do not look well. Do you have a headache?” She called out to her daughter, “Koena fetch a glass of water for your father and put the kettle on the stove to prepare some hot tea”, and again she came back to her husband.

“Come let me keep your Tiffin box and files away. Oh my god you have not had your meals too. The food is left untouched. If you were so unwell you should have come home earlier. Why do you bring the entire office work to home with you? I will not allow you to work here”. She put the files away from him and addressed her daughter.

“Koena you bring the tea to bedroom”. She was handing over a glass of water to her father Mr. Kumar. Kumar was led into the sleeping room by his wife.

Koena saw her father’s deteriorating health and got worried, “you should take a few days off from your job father. Look at yourself. The hard work and no rest are definitely telling on your body”.

Mr. Kumar who avoided looking at his daughter closed his eyes and thought “how could such a prodigal, docile and innocent girl be wed away like a cow tied to the hook, simply because some great Priest wants it”. He thought of fighting it out and saying no to him and facing the consequence thereof.

“Where is Munna?” he asked his wife who caught the immediacy in his voice.

“Don’t you spare a worry about him?  He must be playing outside with other brats. I shall soon call him back. You should finish this tea.  Just lie down and close your eyes. Soon you will go to sleep. We shall wake you up when it is supper time”.

He started snoring in no time. No one woke him up for supper. His wife looked into the room two three times and found him in deep slumber. She decided not to disturb him.

“The poor chap must have been tired. He had a lot of work in office to do. He could not find time to have a morsel of food too”.

“Both of us are not going to our works today”, she declared as she handed over the morning cup of tea to him the next morning. She kissed him lightly on his lips.

“The kids have already left for their school and college. You had a sound and long sleep. We intentionally did not wake you up for dinner last night. I hope you are not tired anymore. We shall have a hearty breakfast. I have planned a special menu for this. We will have stuffed omelets, porridge and sandwiches. I am sick of fried stuff that we have to gobble every morning in a hurry. I have kept the bath room ready for you. Will you please freshen up and come to   kitchen. In the mean while let us get some fresh air into this room”. She was quite chirpy. She withdrew curtains, and opened the window panes.

“By the way I found this book in your office files. It is a book of hymns in praise of goddess. Since when have you become so devoted?  I have never found you reading such religious stuff earlier.  You must be getting old”.

“I had gone to the sanctum sanctorum yesterday”, he solemnly told her. “I had been summoned by the great Priest”.

“What were you called for? Why should he summon you from your office? Did I hear you say the great Priest Rajamantran?  His shrine is so far away. How could you have made it and come back well in office time?”

“Some of his boys drove me in his car to the shrine”. He wanted to get it off his chest.

“The great priest Rajamantran has recommended a boy for our daughter”. Mr. Kumar did not use the word ‘forced’. He waited to look for his wife’s expressions and reaction to the statement “he has sought our daughter’s hand for his nephew, who happens to be her class mate”.

“I am not surprised. Our daughter is quite beautiful. The young man must have been besotted by her charms. But if the young man is still a student, we will have to wait till he settles down. Is he capable of earning bread for his wife as well? I know Koena, she will also like to complete her education”, his wife casually told him.

“Just forget about the entire thing. I hope you have told the great sage we are not interested”.

“He wants us to marry her off within this week”, he again told her “other wise our son will be kidnapped by the goons of the sage, should we fail to do so”.

“He must be playing a prank on you. A pontiff of his stature can not indulge into bullying his own followers. He is quite a pious man. I have been visiting local worship hall, where cassettes of sermons delivered by him are played for benefit of all devotees present. Yes he does advocate piety and purity of the faith. But so have all religions of the world been doing it for ages. They have all been propagating their own trumpets. Look how Mughal fundamentalists during Mughal rule had subjugated us for centuries. They even went to the extent of forcible conversions. If any one did not agree to their religious overtures they had simply beheaded the opponents. The Christianity that supports charity of all kinds wants to bring the members of other communities into its fold by offering financial, educational and other vocational incentives of all kinds. Why should they do it? I believe they do it because they want their race creed and community to expand and become a major force in numbers. If our preacher is preaching a separate identity he must be having similar thoughts of ensuring the survival of our race for many generations which otherwise in the modern life style is being merged into other majority society. It may so happen those centuries later some one will find a specimen and mention of our existence only in museums and history books”.

Mr. Kumar was losing his nerves listening to her ideas and thoughts on the pontiff and his philosophy.

“Are you regretting that you had married some one outside your community”, he asked his wife. She belonged to the same creed as that of the seer. While Mr. Kumar himself hailed from a different section of society.

“No I am not. Please do not make it a personal affront. I am not the only one from our family who has gone into an inter caste and intercommunity marriage. There are millions others like me who have done it prior to us.  There will still be many couples doing it centuries later. Marrying some one within or outside one’s faith is a personal decision. I have never even pondered over my decision; because we have been quite neutral over our ways of following a belief. All these years I have been following my faith religiously. You have not ever forced the thoughts, rituals and the preaching of your ancestors on our family life. Our children have learnt good or bad, merits or demerits of both our ways of worshipping the creator. And I am sure they are capable of deciding for themselves when it comes to adopting a particular sect for appeasement of their souls. But some where I do feel and believe that our pontiff is leading us to the correct destination, even though I do not agree to the means adopted by him. He has been able to bring a sense of pride amongst our nation after many ages”.

Mr. Kumar, “my dear wife we are not holding a debate on the political thoughts, philosophy and isms of the world. The painful dilemma that we are faced with is a question of our daughter’s life. Do you want me to go down on my knees and with folded hands tell the great priest Rajamantran that we have agreed to his proposal”?

“No I do not want you to do that. If our daughter has been a friend of this boy then I will prefer that she takes a decision about her future life herself. We will anyhow speak to him, meet his family, analyze and examine if he is capable enough to earn his bread for a decent living. We must leave the decision to be taken between them to themselves alone”.

Mr. Kumar did not believe this catch-22 situation of their life time could have been solved so easily but then his wife is a strong woman.  Her decision making capability had amazed him many a times earlier too. She had always been proved correct over any of his doubting

Thomas’s.

Maddening Corridors of Intrigues 32

Mr. Kumar reached his office like any other day.  Today also he had wished every one on the way like he had done on any other normal day. He parked his scooter and took the stairs to the second floor of the building. He put down a bundle of files he was carrying. He shoved the Tiffin box into the side table and pressed the calling ring for the office boy. There was nothing new in this routine. He has been following this routine for last many years. Except that today he was surprised to see the director of the office he worked for, waiting for him. The director had been occupying the chair meant for the visitor placed in front of Kumar’s work desk. Kumar in his eagerness to start the day’s job of the day had not noticed the visitor waiting for him.

“Good morning Mr. Kumar”, the director wished him before Kumar could so, “I sincerely apologize for not having noticed your presence in my office. It is an honor to have some one close to the great priest Rajamantran of the great shrine working for us. You never even mentioned it once that you are related to the sage”.

The office boy had brought two cups of coffee on Kumar’s table and asked the director if he wanted it to be served there. “You take it to my cabin. Mr. Kumar I hope you will not mind joining me for a cup of coffee in my office. I have personally come to make this request to you”.

Mr. Kumar’s working in the office has always been unassuming, quite and strictly adhering to the rules. He was somewhat taken aback to find the director pleading for his company for a cup of coffee. He wondered if “the director has lost his balance of mind. May be he is annoyed at him for some reason. The director is taking it out on him in this fashion”.

“I am sorry sir! But I do not want to have coffee such early in the morning. And by the way you mentioned something about being related to some great Priest. I am sure there must be some kind of mistaken identity.  I do not know any great Priest.”

“Oh come on Mr. Kumar I am impressed by your modesty and humility. If you do not mind can we discuss this in my room”? He held Kumar from his elbow and led him towards his room. He offered a chair to Kumar and moved on to the other side of the table to sit into his own chair.

“Look here Mr. Kumar, I have been instructed by the pontiff of the great shrine to provide my personal car to you to visit the Sanctro sanctorum. He wants our Mr. Kumar to have an audience with the pontiff. He wants to meet you. He has sent two of his emissaries to escort you to the holy shrine. The sage had also informed me that you will also be escorted back by the evening. He was very particular that full honor should be accorded to you henceforth. That he will soon visit this office too to see all of us in person”.

“I am sure it must be a prank played by some one.  I do not know any sage. I do not want to go. You can check up if there is some other Kumar working in various branches.  It must be for him”.

The two emissaries from the shrine who were sitting in the adjoining room walked into the office on hearing the discussion between them.

“Please accept our Greetings Mr. Kumar. Our great Priest has sent for you only. He has requested that he will feel honored if you could give him an audience this afternoon. It is some thing very personal. He will like to discuss with you only. And we have double checked it sir he is referring to you and you only in particular.  So please do us the favor of accompanying us to the shrine. We will be back by the evening before your office gets over. We will make sure that you are not unnecessary put to inconvenience”.

Kumar looked askance at his boss.  He felt as if he was being kidnapped, “but me”.

The visitors did not let him complete his sentence, “you will have to believe us sir. There is nothing to fear about.  We shall get you back by the evening”.

Kumar who did not seem to have any other choice left shrugged his shoulders as if he resigning to his fate “it is all right. But you make sure we come back before my office closes for the day”, he told them.

Once at the shrine he was led to the public relation officer’s room which was just outside the main shrine. “The seer will shortly be seeing you sir” the emissaries told him. “In the mean while we will arrange some food for you”.  They left him alone in the office to wonder again as to why he has been called.

“How nice it is to see you here”. Mr. Kumar looked back towards the direction of the voice.  This was a stranger’s face. He was certainly not the great Priest. Kumar had often seen the sage on local television. “I am sorry! But have we met before?” he asked the new comer.

“How silly of me but of course I should have introduced myself. You can just call me General”.  General Durjan extended his hand towards Kumar which was accepted hesitatingly. “The great priest Rajamantran is ready to see you now.  You will come with me to this side please. We are sorry to have put you through this inconvenience. In fact you must be aware of the security hassles that can be created for the great Priest’s safety if he has to go outside this place. Hence he has asked us to fetch you here. Otherwise you must believe me we would have personally come to see you”.  Mr. Kumar felt as if the humility and the courtesy was the hall mark of people associated with the great Priest.

The great priest Rajamantran extended both the arms when he saw Kumar coming into his room. He was accompanied by General Durjan.  He had not seen Kumar any time earlier in his life.  He behaved as if he had known him all his life.

“How happy we are that you decided to come.  Brother Come you will sit near me.” The great priest Rajamantran was squatting on the floor with both of his feet spread out in front of him. He picked up a round cushion and set it on the floor next to him. He beckoned Kumar to come and sit into the cushion on the floor.

“Can we have something to eat and drink for Kumar”, the great priest Rajamantran clapped with both his hands summoning some one from the wings.

While Kumar was being served his food and the soft drinks, the great priest Rajamantran started his address to him in direct tone,  “Mr. Kumar I understand that you are fortunate enough to have a daughter and a son.  I know it is very difficult to rear up children in the hard times today. The society of our times has been losing its grip on the moral and ethical system of living. We should all be held responsible for the moral degradation.  The weak character of the modern youth has been eating into the very social and righteous   thread of this generation. The youngsters want to be left alone. They want to become the arbiters of their own decisions in their life. Come you must start eating”, the great priest Rajamantran pointed towards the food tray placed in front of Kumar.

“While we are talking you can continue eating simultaneously”, he told him.

“Thank you sir”, Kumar took a bite. “Why is he discussing this with me? Has he called me here to give me a sermon on the morality of the society”, Kumar thought aloud.

The great priest Rajamantran continued “it is still acceptable if the child happens to be a boy. The society is little more tolerant towards the waywardness of the male of the progeny. But heavens forbid. Ones existence in social circles becomes all the more difficult if a daughter has to be brought up in the modern scenario. Our society expects the girls and the female of the species to be nice and good all the while. It wants the parents to act as a watch dog for whatever their kids do in their free times”.

Kumar who was listening to great Priest in rapt attention interrupted, “yes sir but my kids are quite well behaved”.

“I know. I know Mr. Kumar that is the reason we have summoned for you here. We appreciate the fact that you and your wife have brought the children as they ought to be. I understand your daughter is very intelligent. She is very well behaved. She is quite civilized and is a simpleton”.

The great priest Rajamantran was praising his daughter which made Kumar feel proud and at the same time he was feeling little ill at ease too while listening to all the praise of his children from a man he had never met in his life before .

“I think it is your daughter’s decency that has besotted our young man. He has fallen head over heals in love with your daughter”.

“I beg your pardon sir”, the glass of cold drink slipped out of his hands, the liquid spilled over Kumar’s clothes.  The great priest Rajamantran handed over his scarf to him.

“Never mind Mr. Kumar we will get you another drink.  I was referring to one of my nephews who have been smitten by the charms of your beautiful daughter. He obviously has been bitten by the cupid and seeks your permission to marry your daughter. I am sure you will also like the young lady to settle down well in life and the sooner it is done better it will be”.

“My daughter is yet to complete her education.  Besides we are not prepared for such a decision. It is little too early to decide. She is quite young yet”. Kumar got up from the cushion he was sitting on. He was apparently quite agitated with the ridiculous demand made by the great Priest, “If that is what you had fetched me here for, please excuse me. The proposal is absolutely untimed besides its being totally absurd. I will like to go back at once”, Kumar retorted as he was walking out of the room.

General Durjan, who has never interfered while the great priest Rajamantran spoke, physically forced Kumar back on the cushion, “please do sit down. Do not get worked up.  You must listen to the great priest Rajamantran. Do not interrupt till he has finished speaking. Your insolence towards him is uncalled for”.

The great priest Rajamantran lifted his right hand to hold back General Durjan.

“Easy, please do not be harsh on our dear brother Mr. Kumar. His reaction is reasonable. It is expected. It is not uncalled for. Any of the parents will react in the similar fashion.  But Mr. Kumar you have not listened to our proposal completely. Once I finish explaining the entire situation to you, this matter will become logical to you. Can we get another drink for him?” he looked up towards the passage where his body guards were waiting upon him. “Mr. Kumar, the young man I am discussing about, is a college mate of your daughter. It is a plain truth. They are well known to each other. We are sure their love for each other could be mutual and this attraction exists both ways”.

Kumar wanted to speak.

“Do not be in haste my dear brother.  Such matters need to be handled tactfully. You might tell me that your daughter is unlike this.  I agree with you we are not casting any aspersions on the moral character of the young lady. All we are suggesting is the arrangement of marriage between the couple with your blessings. If you agree to this proposal it is very magnanimous of you. Well otherwise we are afraid their marriage ceremony will be arranged without your blessings too. This young man happens to be my nephew. You would have heard of the kidnap marriages in certain parts of this country”. The menace and the threat in the voice of the great priest Rajamantran were quite apparent. “I do understand you will like your young son to grow up and give you a helping hand in your old age”.

Kumar shuddered at such a naked warning, being given to him “Munna his son was too young to be referred to in a discussion of this kind. He has hardly seen any of the life so far”.

Kumar covered his face with both his hands. He  started crying and with tears in his eyes he looked up at the priest  , “ your lordship I do not know what kind of crime me or my family have committed that you are subjecting all of us to this punishment. Please forgive us if you are annoyed at some of our mistakes. But we are wiling to atone for the sins. I will request you to spare me and my family from the pains we are being subjected to”, he fell on the feet of the great Priest.

General Durjan told him, “Will you stop this melodrama at once. Pay heed to what we tell you. First of all the marriage proposal will be taken by you personally to the boy at this address. He should be waiting for your visit. You will take care of any objection raised by your spouse or any other family member. Your daughter as we said earlier is not to be blamed for this. In fact you must encourage her to take decision for an early marriage, which in any case will be held under the aegis of this shrine. We have a few community marriages scheduled for next week.  This couple will also be blessed on the same day. Your daughter is very fortunate to have found a young man who is completely committed to the religion. You must trust me. One day this boy will become an icon and a celebrity of our great nation. I can assure you, we have your welfare at our heart. We will not force you to do any such act that is not in favor of the young lady”.  The great priest Rajamantran helped him get up.

He handed over a small book bound in red cardboard. “Here you can take this book full of verses eulogizing the goddess. This will keep your mind in peace”. He clapped his hands loudly, “will some one take our brother Mr. Kumar back to his abode”.

The young men who had fetched Mr. Kumar in the morning from his office appeared from the wings in the corridor adjoining the room the sage was occupying.

“Go Mr. Kumar go with them. They will reach you home safely. You must keep in mind that we have a date next week. You must attend the wedding of the young couple, along with your family”.

Mr. Kumar wondered how he will break the news to his wife, and Koena. “The sinless angel that his daughter was has never ever kept a secret from them”. He in his heart of hearts refused to believe that she could have fallen in love. “She had not told her mother about this. It will be absolutely derogatory to confront her and find out the truth, but it has to be done”. The threat made out to him by the great priest Rajamantran and his henchman hanged. His mind was filled with hatred and loathe for the great priest Rajamantran.  But he fully well knew his helplessness to escape the situation. It would be easy for them to pick up the small boy any time. Then they can and hold the entire family to ransom.

“Do not overburden your mind with unnecessary fear old man. The great sage Rajamantran will not suggest any suitor unworthy of your daughter. You have to have a look at the hero of the story.   Only Then it will be appropriate for you to form an opinion about him. Everyone says he is the right hand man of the pontiff. He is loaded with money. He keeps his dollars and pounds stashed abroad.  The young lady will lead a blessed marital life. I wish I could be like him.  It is a very rare fortune to get a son in law of the kind that this young boy is. In any case, this marriage is bound to take place, whether you agree or not. Now that it has been ordained by the shrine, it will have to be done accordingly. It is better you also accept this as your fait accompli” the boy who had been driving the car spoke to him.

They dropped Mr. Kumar outside his office as they had promised him safe and sound. But his visit to shrine had created a turmoil boiling and seething within him. He did not acknowledge the greetings extended to him by one of his colleagues on the staircases of his office. He continued sitting on his office chair long after every one had left.

“If you want to sit any further you can take this bunch of keys to lock the main door later when you are ready to leave”, it was the office peon. He wanted to finally lock the office. He brought him back to his senses. “In case you have some of the office work left over I can help you carry the files to your home”. He had many a times earlier too carried office home hence the suggestion.

Mr. Kumar, “no thank you Dhani Ram one must be capable of carrying his own burden on his shoulders”. He hurriedly collected his Tiffin box and walked out of the office. But he made a decision on the way.

“I must confront the girl and if it is her choice so be it. Each one of us has to live the life earned by us. If she is destined to, so be it. I must give her a fair chance to explain”.

The road to his house appeared to be much crowded today. It took him long to cover the distance between his office and his home.

Maddening Corridors of Intrigues — Chapter 15

15

    The sleepy little town of Baikunthpur was opening its eyes to the first ray of sunlight. The tea stall vendor at the state roadways bus station woke up to begin his business of the long stretched day ahead of him. He set up the water filled kettle on an earthen stove and started showing fire to   light up the dry woods underneath. “The fog  that appears during the winters has started setting in”, he thought, “ the woods are little wet on the outside, a few drops of kerosene oil will overtake the moisture and the glow of fire will soon engulf mettle kettle from all sides bringing the water to boiling temperature ”.

The staff for first state roadways bus to leave out of the bus station should be here any minute, along with the commuters traveling to the capital town. Generally college students, employees of the state government offices, and a few traders who had some shopping to do in the capital town board the first bus in the morning. The same bus will return late evening from there carrying most of its commuters back, unless of course it carried guests for someone in the town or any one decided to stay back. He could hear self-starter of the bus making a big racket; it seemed the driver would call him out to push the bus from behind for the initial start up. After a few rattling noises it picked up the fuel spark and the engine started roaring. The bus driver Dhanna called him “Chhotte (my little brother) prepare a strong cup of tea with two hundred grams of milk. It should give a speed of seventy kilo meters per hour”, which meant he wanted lots of tea leaves, little water and two hundred grams of milk boiled to the extent that the color of the milk will be fully tanned to blackish red, “And do not forget to add sugar to the tea you  will be serving me .  I need lots of it. Do not be miserly”. Dhanna called out “Yes I know your taste buds are fond of too much of sweet. You do not have to remind me every morning about it though”. He woke up one of the servants from behind the shop and ordered him to carry the pot full of tea to serve it to Dhanna in the bus.

A stranger came to shop with his face wearing half a veil of a blanket and ordered the tea stall owner to give him a cup of tea. The tea stall owner looked at him strangely; it was not cold enough yet to cover face like this.” May be he was still sleepy or may be he suffers from the cold and fever. What do I have to do”, thought the tea stall owner.

He saw another young man coming to his stall, soon after. The stranger ordered him to make one more cup. “You are new here “, he wanted to ask them but the rush of a few more passengers made him busy tending to their orders. “ It seems our town is growing big. We see new faces here every now and then’, he remarked to one of the old regular customers.

The bus conductor was yelling from the rear door of the bus” Capital Town! This bus leaves for Capital Town!” The bus was overflowing with passengers in no time. The driver looked back and asked the conductor if he could send the bus rolling. The conductor blew a long whistle indicating the driver to move. The bus starting stirring, just then the two strangers got up and ran towards the bus; one boarded it from the rear the other had jumped in into the front gate.

The one who was in the front sat on a seat near the driver. The other one occupied a seat next to the rear gate.” Some seats are still vacant.  You can check if we pick up passengers from near the railway crossing and we will go non stop thereafter” the conductor had shouted at the driver,” We will not stop anywhere halfway. If there is anyone going short of capital town please get off as the bus will not stop middle way”, he called out to the passengers. “Let us move”, he indicated to the driver.

Two passengers came into the bus from the railway crossing and moved into the center of the bus. They surveyed the vacant seats and one of them selected the seat near to the front exit. He requested the old lady to move to the central portion of the bus., “Old mother can you shift to the vacant seat in the middle I am not feeling well”. The old lady smirked a little, but realizing the young man may actually be sick gave up her seat. After all he had wrapped a blanket even when there was a moderate cold. The bus began its journey towards its destination.

The driver took the right turn from the next crossing, a passenger requested him “Dhanna dear friend can we hear some devotional music.  I am sure people will enjoy it’. The person sitting next to the driver asked him,” Could you increase the volume of the music system? These devotional songs are too appealing. I am a great fan of this singer”. Dhanna the bus driver looked back and smiled “It is good to follow the scriptures, but at your young age people hardly ever listen to these songs. They are keener to listen to film songs though”. The music system was blaring, “We are born to one father, we are the people of one God, and we are the sons of one father. Each has been blessed with one light; no one is good or bad”. The driver was singing along with the singer somewhat at the top of his voice. He did not hear the loud horn being blown by the truck driver who wanted him to get on to one side of the road so that his truck could move ahead after overtaking the bus. The truck driver kept pressing the horn till the young man tapped at the bus driver’s shoulders” Let him pass; he seems to be in a hurry”. “These half trained truck drivers are always in a hurry. The fellow who issued the license for driving to truck drivers must not have known the art of driving a vehicle himself”. The truck over took the bus from very close quarters.

The bus driver looked outside the window of his bus   and called names to the man driving the truck” Can you not see? You mother…”

The young man who had been sitting near the front exit made sure the door was locked fully. He double-checked the latch on the door. He got up from the seat and stretched his body to the full.

Watching this man near the rear gate sitting on the stairs; the bus conductor also got up from his seat and sat on the stairs next to him. “Brother you can sit comfortably, there is enough space here”, said the conductor, pointing towards the seat vacated by him.

“Thank you I have not had my morning work out. I prefer standing here for a while”. He too checked the bolt at the rear door and firmly bolted it when he noticed it was unlock.

The driver in the front was lost yelling in his not so sonorous voice singing the devotional song when he felt some thing hard and cold mettle on his neck.

The young man sitting next to him told him in a very vicious tone, “You will take a right turn from here. The bus will not go to the capital town”. The driver Dhanna “Yes but this road goes to the deep forest. Why should I take to this direction? We will get lost on the way”?

“Do as you are told otherwise I will kill you”? Dhanna felt the cold steel pressing into his neck and took the sharp turn to the right immediately, screeching tires on the left virtually got lifted from the ground. Some people who were dozing off in the early morning warmth swore names to the driver.

An old man who looked like a retired military officer shouted at the driver “What is this way of driving? You want to kill all of us”.

“No   not him but we want to kill some of you”, the man sitting in the middle of the bus stood up. He removed the blanket and brandished another gun, “No one will get up; this bus is under our control. We are the harbingers of freedom to you all; if any one dare look up I will shoot. Killing is my job”. He hit the man who was sitting in seat ahead of him in the head “You mother… close that windowpane”. Blood started oozing from the man’s head; he without losing a split second shut the windowpane.

The old lady sitting next to him started shouting “Oh God! Oh God! “Shut up you old fart”, the man from the front door called out. He too removed his blanket and pointed the gun at the old lady.  “Listen you jerk,” the Youngman in the middle had come to the aisle, “We are the messengers of God. We are the saviors of the nation. We will not harm any one who is the follower of our belief; but we will also not spare the perpetrators of atrocities on us. This government of atheists belongs to the nonbelievers. They must be driven out of our land; the land that belongs to us. The nonbelievers have exploited this land for ages. They have played havoc with our religion and social beliefs. They have desecrated our places of worship. They kill our brethrens all over the country. They have no right to live and must be done away with immediately”.

No one spoke to him; no one even dared to look at him. The bus had by now reached somewhere in the middle of the thick forest. He ordered the driver to turn the bus on a narrow muddy road going into the forest track. Dhanna the bus driver who belonged to the same community as the four men were pleaded, “For God sake I implore you.  Please do not kill the innocents. They are also our brothers. Why do you want to invite the wrath of all the gods on you? Please let us go back to the main road.” He applied the brakes all of a sudden. The gun slipped out of the hands of the young man and fell on the floor. He quickly picked it up. The driver’s behavior infuriated him and he banged the gun against his head again and again; calling him names “You son of a bitch, you also go with them”. Dhanna tried to ward off the heavy blows initially but the young man’s hands were too quick. Dhanna’s official felt cap that he had been wearing fell on the floor of the bus. He pushed open the side door and jumped on the ground outside the bus below. He ran towards the direction from which the bus had come. “Please save us, will someone save us” he simultaneously shouted. The bullets hit him from behind. He jumped up a few feet and fell on the ground with face turned towards the bus. The young man with gun in his hand was staring out of the window.

“All of you get off the bus one by one and put your two hands on your heads. I am sure no one will dare do any thing, other wise he meets the same fate as the bus driver has met”, the youngster in the rear  of the automobile opened the door and ordered every one to come out of the bus. They were all told to form a queue each for men and women separately. “The people I point out will step aside”, he ordered. A few ladies started wailing loudly. The children too joined them in crying hoarse.

A total of five boarders pointed out by the young man were asked to step aside from the main group. A lad of around twelve years also moved aside with them. “Hey you! You cannot come with them. You are too young to decide what is happening in the society and we do not kill any one for no reason. You will fall back into the group of the other passengers who are being left behind” the leader of the four men told the boy and others to board the bus back.

He virtually herded the five separated, towards the jungle. Other people who watched mutely from inside the bus were too stunned to utter a word. The old lady was praying loud “Oh God! Please be merciful! Please be merciful!” The man who had been left behind to keep an eye on them assured her, “Do not worry you old woman nothing will happen to you. You will die your natural death”.

The gunshots reverberated through the silence of the forest loud and clear. One could distinguish two different guns blaring. The sudden silence brought in the first rays of the jungle morning. The sun gradually rising from behind the tall trees gave a red hue to the atmosphere.